On The Dreaded Lay-Over
If you live in a Midwestern town like I do, you know that it’s a rare thing to catch a direct flight outside of the continental US. Or even sometimes within it. I used to just consider it a part of travel. I accepted that I’d waste an entire day at the airport getting in two to three hours early for security, wandering about until my flight, sitting through the flight itself, hanging around for hours waiting for my next flight…
And then I thought a little bit more strategically: if I have to have a layover, why not make the most of it? I began making a point of flying to cities I actually wanted to visit that had direct, lower cost flights overseas. I could maximize smaller carriers like Allegiant and Southwest because I only ever fly with a carry-on (thus avoiding baggage fees from certain carriers) and then buy a separate ticket for the overseas leg with a different carrier. For the Iceland trip several years ago, we flew Southwest to Toronto, paid $10 to store our things for the day, and then went downtown for eight hours before our Icelandair flight over. That got us out of the airport and out exploring.
For the Cornwall trip, I booked a flight to Boston. I hadn’t been since I was about six and I had family to visit as well. This time, I grabbed a Friday night flight into Boston and my London flight was the next night at 10pm. This left me an entire day in Boston and had me landing in London at 9:45am – perfect.
So my short term schpeel is this: make the most of your layovers! It almost always saves me money (nearly $400 this time), it adds in a mini vacation, and it gets me off my butt and out of the airport! Always, always get trip insurance just in case something happens that delays you getting to your second leg – I like Berkshire Hathaway but there are many other trip insurance companies as well.
So with all that out of the way…
How I Spent 24 Hours in Boston
I’m lucky in that I had someone to pick me up, take me home, make me a cup of tea and hand me a bowl of blueberries when I landed. I had a free queen-size fluffy bed in an old Victorian with ornate plasterwork on the ceiling reminiscent of everyone’s Parisian salon expectations. Had I not had these things, I would have altered my timeline so as to avoid a hotel or just bucked up and gotten one anyhow. But I lucked out. And given that nearly everybody knows somebody somewhere, you probably can too.
We stayed up til 3am chatting. I see my aunt about once a year, maybe, and it’s always at times jam-packed with loads of people. One on one time is hard to come by. So we stay up late.
The next morning, I check in to my flight, take a shower, and get ready. By the time I’m done, she’s cooking breakfast in her southern-France styled kitchen. Soft blues and yellows against creamy whites and slate greys. We eat toasted cinnamon bread with butter and apricot jam, quartered strawberries at their reddest, and poached eggs.
She drives me past Harvard, Boston University, Boston Public Library, the Cathedral, brownstones in Beacon Hill. It’s graduation weekend. Parking is a nightmare and the streets are flooded with people – my instagram plans don’t pan out.
We pay $42 to park for the afternoon. $42! It’s unfathomable. She shrugs. We head off to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum past a line of undergraduate artists selling small works on card tables.
The museum itself opened in 1903 as an outlet for the collections of Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband, Jack Gardner. From its creation, it has been a space for artists, writers, musicians and thinkers, hosting regular concerts in its massive halls. The set-up of the museum, which is her personally amassed collection of Singer-Sergeants, Vermeers, Titians, Rembrandts, and Velasquezes, is that of an Italian palace. The center courtyard features a mosaic floor, hydrangeas, palms, and orchids. A large glass ceiling floods light in overhead.
Each floor is designed to look lived in – less museum-like and more personal. In that respect, it’s good idea to grab a map – it’s easy to miss a masterpiece when tucked in amongst dozens of other small watercolors and paintings.
At Cafe G, the museum’s on-site restaurant, we sat down for lunch. My aunt was a little worn out. The museum is a bit accessible – it has an elevator or two – but can be quite a feat to get around given its tight corners and uneven floors. The cafe itself doesn’t require tickets to get into and is actually really good. Usually I find that museums and other tourist sites have overpriced, bland food – this I would go back for.
The menu changes frequently but I opted for the Bell & Evans Chicken Salad. Large chunks of roasted pulled chicken tossed with a light yogurt dressing, studded with dried apricots and salty pistachios. Across the top were ribbons of marinated celery and a pile of house-made kettle chips. My aunt went for the Polenta Milanese – an airy brick of polenta doused with sauteed mushrooms, thyme, and a house-made ricotta schmeer. We finished up with a lemon tart with sesame crumble and coffee. It was heaven.
In the gift shop, we found high-end gauzy fashion (well out of the budget), pretty little reversible leather totes (well within budget), books, perfumes, and jewelry before heading off to the airport and on to London.